The ''Permanent Midnight'' memoirist has a new novel about rogue cops and Presidential genitalia

By Liane Bonin
Updated October 31, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

In his memoir ”Permanent Midnight,” Jerry Stahl regaled readers with harrowing stories of his stint as a heroin-addicted TV writer. In ”Plainclothes Naked” (on sale Nov. 6), Stahl, who’s back on the small screen as a writer for the hit CBS series ”C.S.I,” makes it clear that fiction can be much weirder than fact. The plot centers on a rogue cop’s struggles to keep a photograph of George W. Bush’s freakily decorated private parts out of the headlines and away from two inept but murderous drug addicts. talked to Stahl about the President’s potential payback, writing crime-kink for ”C.S.I.”’s Nov. 15 episode, and why Oprah will NEVER invite him to her book club.

The Commander in Chief’s genitals play a key role in your book. Considering how popular he is right now, is this a case of really great timing for you as a writer, or really bad luck?
I’m not sure George can actually read books. I imagine there’s probably a presidential reader who does it for him. On the other hand, I imagine he’d be happy that somebody’s saying he actually has balls. There are plenty of doubters. So I’m here to say, not only does he have them, but rumor has it they’re tattooed. There’s also a gay character in the novel who’s obsessed with Dick Cheney, because the old Cold Warrior’s so soft and vicious, like some kind of ruthless Pillsbury Doughboy.

At the end of the book, the rogue cop, Manny Rubert, suggests he might run for Congress. Do you think this codeine-popping ex-junkie has what it takes?
Why not? Manny probably won’t attain the illustrious heights of, say, Rep. Gary Condit, but my guess is he knows enough about manipulation, duplicity and street-smarts to handle himself respectably. Since he doesn’t really care about money that much, his constituents could probably be guaranteed to get their potholes filled. However, all that’s in the sequel.

At one point you said you had five unpublished books hiding somewhere. Can we expect to see those anytime soon?
Considering what gets published these days, I’d say I’m extremely lucky to be in print at all. My writing has never been embraced by what the late, great Terry Southern used to call the ”Quality Lit Crowd.” None of my books has ever been reviewed in the New York Times, and my last novel, ”Perv, A Love Story,” was not even reviewed in the Los Angeles Times after it showed up on their best-seller list. The people who dig my books — the wretches — do so without a pat on the ass from mainstream media. Which is extremely, if perversely, flattering. Osama and Britney Spears will be married in Vegas before Oprah lets me in her book club.

Recently you did a cameo for ”Zoolander,” and you also played a doctor in the movie version of ”Permanent Midnight.” Any thought of changing careers?
Acting is absolutely the best job in captivity. Not only do you work about three minutes a day, but the food is amazing and you get to hang out with all kinds of interesting freakazoids. It’s basically like being paid to hang out and stuff your face. There are worse ways to make a living — and believe me, I’ve done most of them. For a guy who was working in McDonalds at the ripe age of 38, acting is quite a thrill.

Permanent Midnight

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